Our Final Thoughts On Ghanaian Journalism 1

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Mon, 17 Nov 2014 Source: Kwarteng, Francis

Our four-part series “A New Direction for Ghanaian Journalism” saw some of the major problems plaguing the Ghanaian journalism industry, a mosaic of problems whose crystal absence or de-emphasis in the journalism industry would certainly have advanced the field in many significant ways. Once again, this anthology of industry problems is not peculiar to the field of journalism. Neither are the analyses of the said problems and of their capsule of concomitant solutions exhaustive. As a matter of fact, this train of problems and others of identical pedigree appertain to any institution of human authorship. Thus, effective resolution of such problems requires the intellectual proaction of individuals with an array of practical expertise, technocratic vision, and heavy diagnostic investment in management techniques to identify these problems and, accordingly, fashion realistic solution strategies compatible with their dissolution.

Perhaps the best symptom of managerial savoir-faire is signified by the capacity of individuals to spot problems in their latency before taking on dimensions of antheses. Unfortunately operational correlation is not always a smooth or linear one. Sometimes the specter of organizational hierarchy interferes with the operational articulation sandwiched between top-level management and low-level employees. In such instances, it always pays to have organizational horizontalism resist institutional configuration of hierarchization. A pragmatic instance of organizational horizontalism could as well be the well-known practice of industrial democracy. Industrial democracy ensures a select group of individuals do not single-handedly hijack or monopolize the operational instruments of decision making.

Thus, industrial democracy assigns each individual in an organizational budget equal value in decision-making processes. Concurrently running with the objectives of industrial democracy are the positive attributes of monitoring strategies. There must always be effective strategies to appraise the shortcomings and strengths of decisional inputs formulated along the echelons of organizational stratification. This probably constitutes the only means that affords management an opportunity to invoke the dialectic stamp of certification in fully assessing all possible correlations between decisional inputs and effectuation of organizational objectives, be they short-term, medium-term, and long-term. It is important to re-iterate a contrarian view pointing to the fact that organizational horizontalism possibly harbors a major deficit. This fact cannot suffer shots of pretermission in judging operational perpetration of institutions.

Further, organizational horizontalism may give birth to a system of ideational logjam where the notable absence of authentic leadership at the head of operational behavior of institutions is the norm. Bringing closure to a regime of decisional chaos or propelling a necessary directing compass towards the objectification of organizational goals suffers serious blows of institutional anergy at the absential hands of authentic leadership. Most times the notable presence of authority is all that is required to effectively negotiate the agonizing conflict between success and failure. On the other hand, the issue becomes somewhat complicated and emotionally sinuous when the presential soul of authority, of authentic leadership, gets gobbled up by the cold flesh-eating bacteria of corruption. Corruption cannot totally be ruled out from practical considerations in management decisions.

This is a chronic problem in the journalism industry. We saw an example of corruption through our selective discussions on journalists, shills, media conferences, bribery, and politicians. The example of authentic leadership loses its respectability and moral influence in the arthritic arms of corruption. The self-appointed role of media outfits as propagandistic mouthpieces for Ghana’s particracy, her duopoly, further feeds the induratation of the labyrinthine lamination of corruption. The moral of our argument is that one media outfit or the other is more than likely to defend one political party rather than the other because it cannot bring itself to acknowledge its loss of patronage, her financial subsistence.

Obviously, media bias and research bias are natural brisances of these kinds of clandestine collaborations between corrupt politicians and unconscionable journalists. To avoid research bias, particularly, journalists should always provide a clear disclaimer up front declaring their interest in the subject they research on, subjects meant for public consumption, so as to eliminate personal philosophical contaminations inadvertently or advertently introduced into their body of works by conflict of interest, an extremely important point. The other most important fact is journalists’ frank acknowledgment of the impossibility of satisfying every consumer of their body of works. Some readers’ ingrained biases are simply difficult to de-contaminate, a thoroughly researched subject in sociology, psychology, and management. It is why journalists must always ensure scientific objectivity in respect of their research activities trump the objective of preaching to the choir.

The following is the conclusion reached by three scholars who have investigated the subject: “Beliefs can survive potent logical or empirical challenges. They can survive and even be bolstered by evidence that most uncommitted observers would agree logically demands some weakening of such beliefs. They can even survive the total destruction of their original evidential bases (See Craig A. Anderson et al.’s “Perseverance of Social Theories: The Role of Explanation in the Persistence of Discredited Information”).”

Further, this dubious relationship between journalists and politicians is not markedly different from the simoniac attitude of the clergy towards the laity where prosperity theology rather than soteriology becomes the focus of sermonizing. Kerygma is no longer attractive when money and materialism are at stake. Religion and politics, two ideological synonyms, with their forced entanglement in the holy water of corruption. Most significantly, we also hold the opinion that corruption is not necessarily about stealing someone else’s money and property or about misappropriating public funds. Corruption could also mean many different things in different moral or social contexts, from a simple calculating lie to an explosively complex fat lie. Hence, corruption, a social boa constrictor also poses as an interpretational chameleon, assumes different moral colors across social gradations of significations depending on tacit cultural conventions and statutory stipulations.

So far, the loose interpretational connotations in which we shroud the leprotic body of corruption in the preceding paragraphs fit our definitional context for this particular essay very well. We are not, thus, trying to inflict a gavel of political legitimacy upon the sophisticated question of constitutionalizing morality, far from it, for morality is not always easy to legislate from the philosophic standpoint of jurisprudential merit. Certainly other variables come into play in retarding the philosophic motility of such constitutional exercises. Lack of political and social will, stiff religious resistance to secular humanism, and cultural pluralism among others, tend to deactivate popular tendencies toward social consensus on the complex question of legislating morality. Therefore, we are compelled, if not actually conveniently afforded an opportunity, to take full advantage of the systemic cracks in our definitional laxness to insert our popular grievances.

We are using the critical brush of argumentation to paint these assertions on the canvass of journalistic fairness, of journalistic objectivity. This is essentially about journalists’ telling “the truth” about social, political, and economic happenings from the analytic, moral, and philosophic direction of intellectual balance. “The truth,” we have consistently advanced in many essays, does not always religiously follow the behavioral trajectory of the chromatic dichotomy of “black” and “white.” Even the chromatic scheme of rainbow in respect of “the truth” is a far cry from the expressive simplicity of a moral quantum of “truth,” as in the “black” and “white” of journalistic objectivity. Perhaps “the truth,” fundamentally, lodges somewhere in the interior vagueness of the binary opposition between “black” and “white,” the two representing the rigid polarities, or conflicting perspectives, of investigational consciousness on the part of journalists.

Still, this “black” and “white” dichotomy recalls the retributory poetry of Christian eschatology: Heaven and hell. There is no limbo. The objectivity of Ghanaian journalism finds itself trapped in the dual particularities of “heaven” and “hell.” No grey area, nuances, or subtleties of truth.

We advance the theory that the politics of organizational horizontalism or of industrial democracy has a major role to play in leveling the skewed playfield of decisional socialization, the reason being that either possesses the potential to remove any semblance of intimidation or of fear which might characterize the relational dynamics between employees and employers. The perceived political power of the Navajo skin-walker detaches from the authoritarian leadership of top-level management in the relational dynamics of decisional politics. Beyond that, the “black” and “white” dichotomy captures the emotional dynamics of Ghana’s partisan politics where truth is viewed in partisan political particularities. This is where Ghanaian journalism finds sustenance. Indeed truth is everything falsehood is not. Truth is what a blind person sees when asleep, fails to see when awake. And falsehood is when the blind gains his sight in death! T-Pain’s auto-tune is the voice of musical falsehood, Bob Marley’s and Fela Kuti’s and Peter Tosh’s the aggregate voice of musical morality.

Ghanaian journalism makes no clear distinction between truth and falsehood. Ghanaian journalism makes political Komodo dragons and political Tasmanian devils look like the angelic voice of moral purity. Regrettably, truth has become a negation of “the truth” in the Ghanaian journalism industry, a moral process as exorbitantly exploitative as the judgment debts to Ghana’s economic health, blighting the future of old men, old women, ancestors, and great-great grandparents yet unborn. Neither is “the truth” necessarily the gorgeous face of equal dichotomy. In fact, it appears the scale of morality tilts in a relationship of equal dichotomy with the ugly countenance of falsehood in the Ghanaian journalism industry, with the ugly countenance of falsehood usurping the place of “the truth.” Thus, the moral economy of truth has become the rarest political commodity in the marketplace of social interaction within the Ghanaian polity.

It is the more reason most Ghanaian journalists are insalubriously economic with the truth, if they know what truth is beyond the partisan economy of their sniffing noses. Ghana, a vast social geography of political chameleons, religious charlatans, and journalistic double agents, is also an elephantine bundle of moral surprises as a matter of fact, for it astonishes no one, socially conscious or otherwise, that the material expression of politics in the Ghanaian body politic has a sublime umbrage as well. It turns out the people, secular and religious, even have an intriguing turn of phrase for these occult sentiments. Some Christians claim that subverting truth in defense of the Devil is no sin so long as one believes in the righteous effusions of transcendental grace to nurse one’s deafening qualms, dragging the believer in the holy water of absolution. For the most part, Ghanaian journalists have secured a secular adaptation of this sham religious philosophy in which personal impulse for political advantage, personal aggrandizement, and financial gain, or political sinecure if you like, subvert individuals’ predilections for personal integrity.

Predilections for personal integrity stand in the way of journalistic objectivity. We have the illustrative pandemic of Ebola and the broken health systems of Liberia, Sierra Leon, and Guinea as two indispensable points of topical discussion. The problem of public services is not any better, qualitative- and infrastructure-wise, in other parts of the geographic space of Africa. Then again, the issue is not necessarily peculiar to African conditions but, relatively speaking, Africa’s seemed magnified out of proportion from a slant of sociological juxtaposition with those in other parts of the world, the West particularly. It is not as if Africa does not have the financial wherewithal to acquire cutting-edge research technologies and hospital facilities as any in other parts of the world. Besides, Africa has the brainpower to deal with such emergencies but bad leadership, cronyism, lack of technology, nepotism, superstition, political corruption, and insufficient remuneration for men and women in the health sector have virtually driven away those with the requisite expertise to the West.

Our Ghanaian journalists would, overall, rather get themselves preoccupied with the partisan political distortions of social and economic actualities than with bad leadership and its direct repercussions for national disintegration. Moreover, rather than Ghanaian journalists leading the moral fight against the absolute uselessness of the two major political parties, the NPP and the NDC, they identify with one or the other to lynch the people economically and materially. This is why the state of public services is so bad. And you have all these smooth-talking talking heads who have nothing substantial to offer the country by way of practical solutions, except their platitudinal, sycophantic defense of the status quo, the immediate needs of their stomachs and Ghana’s particracy. Kweku Baako, Jr. and Kwesi Pratt, Jr. are two of Ghana’s well-known talking heads. One wonders if there are no other well-informed knowledge-based journalists in the entire country aside these two, given that the two have not looked critically at national issues past the exclusivist politics of Ghanaian particracy.

It is even stranger when Ghanaian religious leaders cannot get past the divisive lens of partisan politics, personal aggrandizement, and unnecessary open unconstructive entanglements with respect to the Christian doctrine of political neutrality. “It is my view that we should not invoke or involve religion in matters where judgment is not for theologians but specialists,” Wole Soyinka quotes the director of Egypt’s Library of Alexandria Ismail Serageldin. We believe this to be applicable to Ghana’s talking heads as well. Of course, the only probable deficit of this observation is that every living Ghanaian is a “specialist” or “expert.” That aside, the two talking heads should be conscious of the fact that their ideological identification with the two major political parties is a shameful exercise in free association, since the political philosophy of each major political party is steeped in the praxis of political corruption and total disregard for the people’s franchise.

We should not forget that both talking heads are products of Nkrumahism, a political philosophy with deep respect for the people, their material and spiritual well-being, and development, and, as a result, both men should have known better than to set themselves up as spokespersons for these kleptomaniacal and anti-people political parties. Besides, the NPP’s democratic capitalism and the NDC’s social democracy are one and the same, a powerful refrain Ghanaian journalists have failed to sing to the people. However, we shall not make too much of our criticism of both men given their constitutional right to free association as far as their choice of political philosophy is concerned. The point is that it is high time Ghanaian citizens learnt to look beyond the exclusivist political philosophies of the two major political parties, gravitating towards a neutral political force with a more inclusive political manifesto instead. A third political force should take up this radical proposition. In effect, we task Ghanaian journalists to lead this national discourse as the two spent political parties have nothing substantial to offer the people.

On the other hand, we would have wished if Ghanaian journalists had read deeper meanings into the moral and political failures of Ghanaian leadership, political taxidermies of Komodo dragons and Tasmanian devils. It is axiomatic that political corruption and kleptomania have diverted attention from erecting efficiently-running public services and training personnel in the techniques of cross-cultural capital to be deployed in the best interest of the people’s development. Only the great Kwame Nkrumah achieved this for the people, while the latter-day self-proclaimed democrats illegally amass wealth at the expense of national growth. Political corruption and kleptomania have taken away from what rightfully belongs to the people, public institutions, and human capital, so is bad journalism. Are we not saying political corruption, kleptomania, and poor educational institutions have chased away able epidemiologists, virologists, bio-mathematicians, mycologists, medical statisticians, and bacteriologists beyond the shores of Africa?

This is not a question Ghanaian journalism is primarily interested in. Rather, a journalism of insults and a journalism of calumniation have the sacred psychology of social consensus become. This acknowledgement indicts corrupt journalists and politicians alike. Why do the media, radio and television, put ethnocentric politicians on air to spew their hatred, their demagogueries? Is Ghana not a geopolitical conglomeration of accommodating ethnicities, of human beings, of cultures, of histories, etc., rather than of political parties and greedy politicians? Why are our journalists leading the battle of moral or political equalization on behalf of the two major corrupt political parties? Why are political parties abandoning projects around the country because they do not fall within their strongholds, because the other political party initiated them, and because either political party does not want to see the initiator get all the credit, while journalists keep mute?

Ideally, reasons for the intellectual laziness of Ghanaian politicians and journalists are not too difficult to fathom, actually not too far from the nucleus of public consciousness: Ghanaian leaders know how best to devolve the anatomy of national problems upon external patronage, to take the people’s grudging patience for granted, and to defer the inquiring imperatives of today to the comical uncertainty of tomorrow. Still, it does not occur to the tottering conscience of these blind political leaders that the comical uncertainty of tomorrow does not readily or necessarily translate into the unplayful certainty of today, of yesterday. Yet Ghanaian political leaders loathe clueless tomorrow as much as they loathe prescient today, so are their intellectually lazy and morally denuded journalist counterparts. On the question of history, forget the agonizingly grinding mystery of yesterday! It is no point arguing that the hallowed struggles of the great Nkrumah to make the world a better place for humanity has consistently meant nothing to them, these wicked and vampiric politicians.

The gradual deterioration of education does not seem to make a pronounced dent in leadership conscience, journalists’ and politicians’. Political discordance over the total number of years required for students to complete their education at the senior secondary level without political leaders’ having recourse to ratiocinative imputations to authoritative verdicts of scientific projections is one huge sad story, a national tragedy. There seems to be a lack of public sympathy for the scientific plumbing of problematic issues of national consequence, such as investigating correlations among the number of years students spend in school prior to graduation, quality of education, and adequate preparation of generations of individuals whose capacity for analytic thinking and intellectual input to Ghana’s development economics, critical variables the nation sees herself in high need of. Unfortunately that is not the general case in the view of journalists either.

The usual political trademark paints a different picture in which one political party assumes the presidency and the total number of years of full study before graduation is increased by a digit, the opposition becomes the incumbent and restores the status quo. Circularity of political absurdities. Virtually no critical consideration is appended to the scientific possibility of that one year differential translating to human capital of immense technological, scientific, and managerial consequence to national development. The future of children becomes a battered soft ball in the kleptomaniacal animal kingdom of men and women whose political scarlet sins can sometimes be estimated beyond the moral calculus of human reckoning. Time and adequate resources are not devoted to cross-sectional and longitudinal studies with a view to evaluating school children’s mathematical and reading abilities and, accordingly, designing appropriate instructional techniques to address those with deficits as they progress along the ladder of knowledge acquisition. Politicians and journalists do not generally care about these critical questions!

The moment for political and journalistic antialiasing is now. It is high time Ghanaian journalists and politicians got the subtle and not-so-subtle difference between the palm-wine music-influenced highlife and the vulgar hiplife of social actualities. Palm-wine music-influenced highlife is indeed truth, vulgar hiplife is indeed falsehood. Ghanaian politicians and journalists are no true envoys of the majestic poetry of moral truth. Ask Ghanaian politicians and journalists and they will tell you alligators and crocodiles and lizards are one and the same. They will even tell you dinosaurs and lizards and monkey tails are one and the same too.

Alas, Ghanaian politicians and journalists cannot tell the difference between the ghost names that stole millions of dollars from the National Service Secretariat (NSS) and the dwarfs that caused the Cedi’s downfall! A country whose Christian leaders demonstrate possession of supernatural powers deployed in resurrecting dead bodies not in the country but in foreign lands oceans away. A country whose Christian leaders claim to have foreseen the advent of Ebola but whose augury does not say a word about the scientific cure for Ebola. A country whose journalists and religious leaders and politicians prostitute themselves in full view of public morality. All they know how best to do is lip-synching the hiplife of falsehoods above and beyond the moralizing crescendo of public censure. What a great country of political, religious, and journalistic jokers, George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

We shall return…

Columnist: Kwarteng, Francis